RealID driver license vs. Passport for cycling in US border areas

Hello Fellow Cyclists

I’m a foreign national living and working in the US (specifically in southeast Michigan).

Have you had run-ins with US Customs & Border Patrol while cycling close to border areas (US-Canada border, US-Mexico border or any of the coasts)? These areas are shown in the map below.

Have you had a situation where a RealID driver license was not accepted in lieu of a passport?

(A RealID driver license is issued after verifying valid work authorization\citizenship. Such driver licenses usually have a gold star on the top right of the driver license).

In Michigan (and some other border states) you can get an “Enhanced” licence which functions the same as a passport for land boarder crossings with Canada. Its a step up from the basic RealID complaint license. However, you have to be a US citizen to get one since its kind of like a mini limited use US passport.

Your issue likely happening specifically because you’re a foreign national. Technically if you are not a citizen or a permanent resident, you’re supposed to have your “papers” with you at all times showing your authorization to be in the US, including your passport. Day to day that does not come into play all that often but when you’re close to a border, your chances for running into the nice folks from Border Patrol go way up. (FWIW-they can be pretty jerky to Americans too - don’t take it personal)

Our latest government (Ontario) that they are discontinuing “enhanced” driver’s licenses as a cost cutting measure as the participation was fairly low. Unfortunately I cannot justify a NESSUS card so plain old passport for me.

Yes, I’ve heard that Americans cycling in the Tucson area (in Arizona) do get harassed sometimes by US Customs. I can’t get an EDL, but my DL, being RealID, is a step-up from the regular driver licenses. I need to show passport, visa etc. to obtain a RealID-ceritified driver license.

I live in the metro Detroit area, very close to the Canadian border (less than 20-25 miles away), and I haven’t been asked to produce paperwork - yet.

I live in southeast Michigan too. I’ve run across a decent number of foreign nationals in the groups I ride with and i have never heard of any of them being hassled while riding by Border Patrol or police over their status. Between the auto industry visa workers and transferees as well as several pretty big ethnic communities, there are tons of foreign nationals living in the Detroit area so you’re unlikely to run into anyone in authority who will even raise an eyebrow much less be freaked out by dealing with a non citizen.

I don’t think a RealID helps you with CBP or ICE. It’s identification, so it’s useful to have in case you interact with the police, but it’s not a registration document.

Technically, you are supposed to always carry some registration document. A passport with visa works, as does a green card, I-94, etc.

Realistically, the “always” is not much enforced. At least in the north-east corner of the US, I have never seen CBP anywhere except actual ports of entry. ICE is a different matter, but they operate anywhere and generally only show up if you’re under arrest for other reasons (or working without a visa).